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Stay Informed: Key Insights on Feminine Hygiene Products Every Woman Should Know

Stay Informed: Key Insights on Feminine Hygiene Products Every Woman Should Know

By Anastasia Silver

Choosing feminine hygiene products is a decision many women make routinely, often on autopilot, based on factors like absorbency and comfort. We might have emulated our mothers’ or sisters’ or friends’ preferences, and never fully considered the issue for ourselves. Like many, I never thought to scrutinize the components of the pads I used; I simply trusted that they were safe. However, what often goes unnoticed is the lack of transparency regarding the ingredients used in these products, as well as the outrageous dangers of the most basic feminine hygiene products that line the supermarket shelves. I spoke with Bali’s own award-winning menstrual health enterprise Perfect Fit to learn more about some of the issues with commercial pads and some safer alternatives. 

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)

I discovered that commercial pads, while widely used, contain a range of chemicals and materials that could pose health risks. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are substances that interfere with hormonal systems, potentially leading to adverse health effects. Some common EDCs found in commercial pads include phthalates, parabens, fragrances, organotins, triclosan, formaldehyde, PBDEs, OPFRs, and PFAS.

These chemicals have been linked to numerous health concerns, such as skin irritation, allergic reactions, reproductive disorders, hormonal imbalances, and even cancer (Journal of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing in 2007, ”Irritant Dermatitis Secondary to Feminine Hygiene Products: A Review of the Literature).

I must confess, upon hearing all this, and even after reviewing some of the aforementioned studies, I was skeptical. After all, we all use the pads, and nothing bad ever seems to happen except for an occasional innocent itch. It seemed like fear-mongering to me. As a woman of science, however, I’m called to dig deeper. 

The Concept of Cumulative Exposure and Individual Vulnerability

As it often happens, it’s not that one side is right, and another is wrong. Often, both are right under different circumstances. The critical factor in determining whether a woman will be negatively affected by the chemicals in feminine hygiene products lies in understanding the concept of cumulative exposure and individual vulnerability.

When certain chemicals interact with our bodies, their combined impact can be greater than the sum of their individual effects. This means that even if a single chemical is present at low levels and proven to be safe on its own, its effects may be amplified or altered when combined with other chemicals. It's not just about the pads themselves, which alone indeed may not cause harm, but the broader context of chemical exposure in our daily lives. 

From the detergents we use to wash our clothes to the plastic products we come into contact with, the environmental pollutants in our air and water, and even the food we eat, our bodies are constantly exposed to a myriad of chemicals. This cumulative exposure can compound the potential health risks associated with individual products like pads, especially for those with sensitive skin or preexisting health conditions. 

We Are Pros at Ignoring our Bodies Cries for Help

The trouble is, we don’t often know that we have a preexisting health condition. We are pros at ignoring our bodies cries for help. We shrug off a rash; we blame our ex for poor sleep. We are used to bloating and the occasional bad mood. We don’t understand that all of these may well be symptoms of hormonal imbalances. If left unchecked they can snowball into further problems such as thyroid disorders, endometriosis, or even infertility. Studies indicate that, on average, these issues take an astonishing 7-10 years (!) to diagnose. And how long will it take to find the right treatment?
So my thinking that nothing bad ever happens is proven incorrect. Something bad does happen. It’s just happening quietly, slowly. I did not notice it in my 20s. Now in my 40s, having experienced difficulty conceiving a child, I’ve seen a fair share of friends and acquaintances eventually coming to one nasty diagnosis or another.

Whoosh! Ok. So, what now then? The monthly aunty is still coming. What should I do?  Thankfully, safer alternatives to commercial pads exist, as Perfect Fit helps to highlight. Organic cotton pads, reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups, menstrual underwear, sea sponge tampons, and biodegradable pads and tampons offer chemical-free options that prioritize both health and sustainability.

 


Organic cotton pads are made from pesticide-free and chemical-free cotton, providing a natural and gentle option for those concerned about chemical exposure. Reusable cloth pads or menstrual underwear, on the other hand, are washable and can be used many times over.

 

 

I’ve tried these and must admit it’s not my favorite choice for Bali where I don’t have a washing machine. Back home, however, it’s my product of choice. Menstrual cups, made from silicone or rubber, are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual flow and are typically free from harmful chemicals. I’m reminded, however, to be sure that the supplier is not cutting corners by choosing cheap raw materials. Storage in humid moldy Bali is also a concern for me.

 

Finally, new health-conscious brands are emerging, offering gentle natural pads and tampons made from sustainable materials like organic cotton or bamboo. These typically refrain from using harmful chemicals. They might be bulkier than the ultra-thin slick pads I’m used to, but it seems a small price to pay for my healthy temple.

 

I’m grateful to Perfect Fit for opening my eyes to what I’ve unknowingly been doing to my body. By providing period care and period-positive education, they help women and girls feel valued, supported, and heard, which makes them more likely to be engaged and productive at school and in the workplace. You may see their products starting to emerge on the shelves of many health stores, cafes, and supermarkets here in Bali. Kudos for your amazing work. 

 

Learn more about Perfect Fit and shop their products here.

 

 

This article was originally published on Modern Women Bali. You can also find Modern Women Bali online. They're an introvert-friendly network with online and offline communities for creative, intellectual, and businesswomen in Bali, or those traveling there.

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